World of Tanks

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Wargaming.net
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2014

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'World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition' (X360) Interview With Wargaming & Microsoft

by Adam Pavlacka on Feb. 12, 2014 @ 12:07 a.m. PST

In World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition 30-player teams are fighting action-packed PvP battles, featuring more than 150 armored fighting vehicles from the pre-WW2 era up to the Korean War.

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition will be digitally downloadable and free-to-play for Xbox Live Gold account holders, with an additional 7-day timed trial for all other Xbox Live account holders. The title will feature revamped controls, matchmaking, a new user interface and other components to take advantage of the Xbox 360’s technological capabilities and online features. World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition will also feature in-game purchases such as premium tanks, consumables and premium accounts to boost experience and currency accrual rates.

At launch, World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition will feature more than 100 iconic tanks from three separate nations – the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. The title will also be further expanded with future content downloads consisting of new tanks, nations, and more.

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition Interview with Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming and Matt Booty, General Manager at Microsoft Studios

WorthPlaying:  Wargaming is well known among PC players. You've been around for quite a few years. World of Tanks is very popular on the PC. Why make the move to consoles now?

Victor Kislyi: Like two years ago, when World of Tanks was already showing signs of great success we noticed that some countries were crazy [for it], like Russia, Poland, Germany, China and Korea. But some countries, like the US and UK, not so much. The conclusion was obvious. North American players definitely prefer to play on the console, in the comfort of his or her living room, with the controller in his hands and maybe with a glass of Coke or popcorn and having the TV eight to ten feet away.

The rule of any business is that you go to where your customers are. That's why we got together with the guys from Microsoft, we had some good relationships before, and "hey, why don't we bring this free-to-play World of Tanks to the console?" It coincided with Microsoft's progressive thinking about moving online, moving to digital, moving to free-to-play and yeah, World of Tanks was strong enough to be one of those front runners. We shook hands and realized that probably Eastern Europe is not the best place to make the front end to that. That's why we shook hands with Day One studios in Chicago and said "hey, here's the code, here's the concept, here's the documentation, here's our people that you can buzz at any moment, make the best possible console experience." Two years later, it just happens.

WP: Matt, from Microsoft's perspective, what drove the company to make the move into free-to-play? Obviously World of Tanks isn't the first free-to-play game Microsoft has published. There have been a few others on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One, but looking at what's happened in the mobile space where free-to-play is a bad word, how did you come to embrace the concept?

Matt Booty: The first thing is that we want to bring a great game to the console. It starts with it just being a great game. The fact that it happens to be a free-to-play game was secondary to the fact that at its core World of Tanks is a fantastic game.

In terms of free-to-play on the console, it is important to really orient to words like "appropriate" and "fair." The way free-to-play is integrated into the game needs to be appropriate for the game play and it needs to be fair to the player. I have learned that, among other things, Wargaming has a very deep respect for its players and they make sure that at every stage the game is fair.

The way free-to-play is integrated into the game, it is very much a choice for the player. I think the fact that World of Tanks was designed from the very beginning to be a free-to-play game, that it really hits on all those things. It's appropriate, it's fair and most of all it's respectful of the player. It's going to make for a great free-to-play game on the console.

WP: What elements in World of Tanks are part of the free base game and what elements are add-ons that you do have to pay for? Is it just cosmetic? Or do you pay for things like better tanks and better weapons? How does that all come into play?

VK: You had mentioned that free-to-play was a bad word. We have our own Wargaming style of free-to-play. We call it free-to-win. Our philosophy is this: there is no way you can fool millions of players all of the time. You can fool a small amount of people for a short amount of time, but not millions for three-and-a-half years. This is what we stand by.

Everything in the game is accessible for free. You can level up from tier one to tier ten, in the same tanks, as a non-paying user just as you can as a paying user. Money comes only when an older gentleman like myself wants to save time. I have work, I have family, I run around the world, I run a business and I have a little more disposable income in comparison to a schoolboy.

You know, 75% of the players will never, ever pay a single penny. That's OK. We're fine with that. We're not pushing you to pay. We're not flashing in your face, "give us money, buy this, buy that." This is your deliberate choice. It's also micro transactions. Even when I pay, it's just a couple of movie tickets, so this is very affordable to me.

Let me give you an example, the premium account. It gives you 50% more experience points and in-game credits after each battle. What does that mean? It does not make me stronger on the battlefield or faster or more accurate. No, it just saves more of my time. Schoolboy who will never pay, will just have to play a couple more battles to level up with the same speed as me. But when we say has to play to level up, playing is fun. He just keeps playing the game and naturally he's playing more than me and getting more experience points, so there is no difference between me and him.

WP: What about the different currency types in game? In the store we see silver, gold and star amounts listed.

VK: Silver is in-game money. Those are credits which you get after each battle. Of course, if you win, if your team wins, you get a lot of kills, you get more of those. If you are a scout and you scout more, you get more. Experience points are used to unlock your technology.

Tanks consist of modules, so each module and each consecutive tank is equal to a certain amount of experience points. So when you play, you get credits and experience points. You spend experience points to unlock technology. You spend credits to buy the tanks and buy the modules and buy the shells.

Gold is real money. Sometimes you will get gold during championships and tournaments, but as a general rule you just buy gold. For that gold you can buy things like premium accounts and certain other consumables inside the game. The consumables inside the game, we used to have them available only for real money, but since the middle of last year in the PC version (and very soon on the Xbox) we allow you to spend credits to buy those consumables instead of real money.

So you can choose. Like myself, I will still be spending real money to save time, but the school kids, they will just play a couple of extra battles to pay credits for the same consumables.

WP: So far all the different free-to-play games on the Xbox 360 seem to have had their own unique currencies. Has there ever been any consideration around unifying that payment system around straight cash values, rather than buying a credit pack for this game and a credit pack for that game?

MB: I'll come back to what I said earlier about the word appropriate. I think that's being driven right now by what's appropriate for the games and what's most fair to the player. I don't think there is anything that what would prevent something like what you described where there could be a currency that goes across different games or different publishers, or might be system wide, but right now as we are really focused on just bringing good games that, I don't want to say would happen to be free-to-play, because clearly World of Tanks is very thoughtfully engineered to be a good free-to-play game, but it's more that the currency and the payment instruments are an outgrowth of the game rather than us forcing some system wide thing into the game.

WP: On the Xbox 360, you have to have an Xbox Live Gold subscription in order to play the free-to-play games. Has there ever been any concern within Microsoft that you might be missing out on the causal free-to-play players, simply because the games are locked behind that Gold paywall?

MB: We do have a one week trial [for World of Tanks] so anybody that owns an Xbox 360 can get in. If you become an Xbox Live Gold member, if you weren't before, the stuff that you've earned in that week will come along with you. For the monthly $5, I think Xbox Live is a tremendous value. Not just in terms of the multiplayer gaming service, but everything you get as part of Xbox Live and I think this game is exactly the kind of game that our Xbox Live gold customers who love multiplayer will love.

VK: You have to understand that Microsoft and Microsoft Games are huge companies running for decades and they are successful and they have their business model and they changed our world by the way. The Xbox Live Gold subscription is there for a reason. You are paying today $5 [a month] for a lot of services and the opportunity to play the multiplayer aspect of those games. When we started working with Microsoft it was about partnership and compromises. We told them a lot of things which free-to-play games needed to have to be successful, like quick QA cycles and removing restrictions. Most of those things Microsoft understood and made those compromises for us.

Of course we would probably love to have this Gold requirement to be removed, however we have to be respectful to our partner and we realize the reasoning behind the subscription part and so that was our compromise. We think that Xbox Live is a great service on its own, worth much more than $5 per month with all those other games and other services, so we are fine with that. I think many players, who will dig World of Tanks will sooner or later become Gold subscription members which will be to the mutual benefit of us and Microsoft.

WP: World of Tanks has been out for a couple of years now. Out of curiosity, was there ever a point where you sat down and thought that maybe it would have been better to release it as a standard $50 or $60 retail game rather than free-to-play? Were there ever any doubles about the free-to-play model?

VK: No. Wargaming celebrated its 15 year anniversary last year, so we're 16 years old. Before World of Tanks we made 12 single player games. In the box. We published them ourselves. We published them with publishers. With small publishers, with medium publishers and big publishers, however we realized the whole model is dying.

There is the developer, there is the publisher and there is the physical factory where you actually print DVDs and people put it in the box. Trucks are running toward shops. There are people putting the boxes on the shelves, and you have to physically go there. There's money going back and forth and every middleman is getting his own share.

Between a developer who is creating a masterpiece and the final consumer there are so many middlemen taking a share, making things longer, so the decision to make World of Tanks free-to-play online was the result of 13 years of hard work and experimenting with strategy and historical gaming. It was a hard earned revelation. We paid a lot of sweat and blood and time and sleepless nights to finally understand the best way to give our passion to our consumers around the world.

MB: I would just add that this is the launch of the game, but this is just the beginning. This is a service based game. We'll have the first updates with additional content out in about a month, a month-and-a-half. This game will be very different a year from now than it is now. It's going to evolve, it'll get more content and that was really the only way this could work. So this wasn't sort of "put it on a disc and we're done." We just really want it to be something that is going to grow and evolve and update.

WP: With the ease of digital distribution, and especially Microsoft's push into downloadable games on the Xbox 360 over the years, why has Microsoft not released anything bigger than a 320GB hard drive? I've already filled up two drives with content and swapping hard drives is just as annoying as swapping discs. Why not offer a 500GB or 1TB hard drive option since players can't just use a standard one?

MB: You know, I think that where that's headed is actually the opposite end of the spectrum. I think that where we're headed is more "you've got as much space as you need that's off in the cloud somewhere," because I get the restriction about a 320GB drive and wanting 1TB, but the thing is two years from now 1TB could be back to being a problem.

I think where this is all headed is that you're going to have a library of games in the cloud with more storage than you could ever need. Every game you've ever bought in your life could be up there and then you're going to bring down the game to play locally that you want "right now."

We're working on a lot of technology to reduce load times. We're working on a lot of technology so that enough of the game can be brought down to your local box immediately so that you can start playing and I think, I get it with the frustration about the hard drive, but I think that's actually the wrong problem to solve. I think you want to take it the other way.

VK: Let me answer this from my perspective. When they were coming up with the Xbox 360 they probably thought that people would play a game or two or three and that's it. It became so successful, people kept this thing for years and years and they keep playing and playing games so that's where overflow happens. From the success of the system and the amount of games that developers, like ourselves, put on the system.

WP: Looking back, that original 20GB hard drive seems kind of small doesn't it?

MB: That's always going to be the bind right? No matter what drive you put in there, within a couple years it's not gonna be enough. I think that getting detached from the physical drive is important and getting more to cloud based storage is where things are headed.

VK: Or streaming. The future is streaming.

WP: Thanks a lot for your time.


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